Our History

The Episcopal Church

in Franklin 1873

Boys Choir

circa 1873

East Window & Murals

Grace Church,

circa 1923

Memorial Garden

Grace Episcopal Church in Nutley began with children and their need for Christian Education. Thomas Satterthwaite, an Episcopalian whose estate stretched from Passaic Avenue to the River and from Grant Avenue to Rutgers Place, and his neighbors had to travel by boat or carriage to Christ Church in Belleville to attend services. In order for their children to attend Sunday School closer to home, he started an Episcopal Sunday School on his estate in 1863. All these many years later our mission remains the same: "That others may know Christ's love through us" through formation, worship, and music. We hope that you will become a part of this vibrant and warm community.

In 1872, the Satterthwaite family gave a parcel of land at Grant and Whitford Avenues for the establishment of the Episcopal Church in Franklin. A little white frame church was built in the Spring of 1873 with the first services being celebrated on Easter Day of that year. The church seated about 150 persons with the undercroft serving as the Sunday School for about 40 restless children.

Until 1878, the fledgling Grace Church was a mission chapel with the Rev. William H. Carter, rector of Christ Church, Bloomfield, as vicar. Three years later, the Rev. B.C. Huntington was called to be the first rector. After only three months, he resigned because his salary of $500 per year could not be paid. The first permanent rector was the Rev. William R. Nairn, Mr. Satterthwaite's son-in-law, who served from 1879 until his death in 1889. The congregation averaged about 60 adults with the same number in Sunday School. During the Rev. William Nairn's rectorship, all the church's debt was paid and the church was consecrated by Bishop Starkey.

The second rector was the Rev. John P. Appleton, who served from 1890 until 1898. On March 25, 1891, the Satterthwaite family presented to the Vestry the land on which the present church. parish hall, and rectory stand. Soon thereafter, the rectory was built, being completed in late 1892 or early 1893. However, church services continued to be held at the church on Grant Avenue for another 15 years.

In April, 1904, the name of the town having been changed from Franklin to Nutley, the corporate title of Grace Church became Church of Nutley.

The Rev. N. Field Saumenig became rector in 1899 and served until 1903 when he was succeeded by The Rev. Herbert Cone. It was during the Rev. Mr. Cone's rectorship (1903-1911) that the present church was built on Highfield Lane and North Road. The church cornerstone was laid on September 19, 1908 and the first services were held on Christmas Day, 1908.

While the Rev. Douglas Matthew was rector (1911-1919) the English artist, Clinton Balmer, was commissioned to paint a series of murals on canvas to be mounted on the ceiling of the nave and on the end wall of the chancel. Taking seven years to complete, they were dedicated in June, 1918.

Under the leadership of the Rev. Charles Tinker who served as sixth rector from 1919 until 1936, the church tower with spire and the tower on the parish hall were added in 1923 completing the exterior of the church buildings. Two years later on December 30, 1925, an early morning fire swept the nave destroying the organ, the pews, and the roof along with the Balmer murals. Reconstruction of the church was covered by insurance. The artist Balmer was recommissioned to replace the murals that had been destroyed. Grace Church continued to grow under the pastoral care of the Rev. L. Harold Hinrichs who served as rector from 1937 until 1950. Because of the dedicated women of Grace Church, the mortgage was paid off. At a service on March 2, 1947, it was burned by the Altar Guild President, Mrs. D. Payne. The same day the church was consecrated by the Rt. Reverend Benjamin W. Washburn, bishop of the Diocese of Newark. The year 1948 marked the 75th anniversary of the parish at which time the stained glass windows were dedicated. These stained glass windows are part of the beauty of the church and a great pleasure to everyone.

The Rev. Welles Bliss, a former Marine Chaplain, was called in 1950 as the eighth rector of Grace Church. During his 15 years of service the church continued to grow under his teaching skill. Under his spiritual leadership four men were inspired and called to the ordained ministry of the church. In 1958 the education building was built to provide adequate facilities for the Sunday School and church office. The Visitor, the parish newsletter, first went into publication during this time. The Rev. Daniel K. Sullivan served as ninth rector of Grace Church from 1966 until 1972 during which time the parish experienced a significant growth in members, budget, and assets. Under Father Sullivan's guidance, the parish prepared to celebrate its Centennial by renovating the church's interior which included a remodeled sanctuary with a free-standing altar and the initiation of a three-stage organ building program. His tenure also brought contemporary Eucharist and healing services, and the opening of the church doors to twelve-step groups. This was also the time of extensive building improvements.

The Rev. Wade A Renn was called in 1973, the year of parish's centennial, as tenth rector of Grace Church. He faithfully served for twenty-three years (1973-1996). During his time the music program expanded with the formation of a handbell choir for youth and adults and major work was done on the organ. Father Renn shared his joy for learning with both children and adults. Unsatisfied with many of the commercially prepared curricula, he wrote his own for the Sunday School. He also brought the Bethel Bible Study series, an intensive two-year program, to the parish. In 1992, through the combined efforts of the Community School in Nutley and Grace Church, funds were raised to renovate the Sunday School building for the Infant/Toddler Center. The Memorial Garden was designed and installed during this time, too.

Our current rector, the Rev. Pamela Bakal who was called in 1997, has brought many gifts to the church. Her guidance has helped children and adults to become more involved in programs and opportunities that help to deepen spiritual life and strengthen faith. There are opportunities to attend Bible study and mid-week services, participate in Christian Yoga classes, join a vocal or handbell choir for adults or children, attend or teach Vacation Bible School or Sunday School, learn liturgical dance, and meet with others for fellowship. Outreach ministry has expanded, too. Parishioners work with IHN, the Mary and Martha Soup Kitchen, and support Prison Ministry. Under her spiritual guidance three women have discerned calls and have been ordained to Holy Orders, two to the priesthood and one to the vocational deaconate.

The ministry of the church has expanded in recent years to include a military support ministry, prison ministry, and ministry at a local soup kitchen and pantry. The parish has also successfully completed the daunting task of the restoration of the church building to meet the needs of this and future generations through a capital campaign project.